This post y'all... boy, it's a tough one to write.
I mean... have you ever been in the middle of telling a story to a friend and wanted to fast forward through all the "filler" and just skip to the ending? Because, you absolutely know, the end of the story is the very best part?
Well, that's how I feel when it comes to sharing about our journey through the heart of Jerusalem.
The fact that we had finally made it... that seeing Jerusalem was everything we had imagined it would be and more... well, it's enough to end the story with right there.
Let me start by saying this... being in Jerusalem cannot be topped. Our days in God's Holy City were life changing. Most of the things Mr. Atchley and I saw and heard were some of the most amazing sights and sounds (& smells) we have ever experienced in our entire lives. Jerusalem is special. And when you're there, you see why God chose it for Himself. You understand why it's worth fighting for. You finally "get it"... Jerusalem is the heartbeat of planet Earth. Once you go and see it for yourself, you'll truly understand.
But with that being said, we also witnessed some really tough things in Jerusalem. Certain sights that caused our hearts to break and made us weep. There were times we wanted to avert our eyes and pretend that we hadn't seen such pain and heartache.
Please, you must understand... even though it was difficult... we needed to witness those things. And now, I need to share those same things here with you. The "rest of the story" must be told before I can share the ending and the absolute very best part with you. (So for that reason, day eight will be shared in two posts.)
On our very first night in Jerusalem, I didn't sleep well.... the only thing I wanted to do was sit up all night long and stare out the hotel room window at the view of the Old City! It was mysterious and breathtaking! I couldn't wait to begin exploring and seeing it all!
After breakfast the following morning, we loaded on the bus and began the day in prayer and with reading scripture. Today, Pastor John chose Psalm 48. I jotted down this entry in my journal:
Here I am... in the city of our God!
In the mountains of His Holiness!
The joy of the whole Earth is Zion!
God will establish her forever!
Jerusalem, we are ready... to walk about, to see all around you! We will count your towers, view your citadels and consider well your ramparts! We will go and tell it to the next generation! For God is our God forever and ever! <3
Our first stop was at the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are kept. Before going inside, we spent some time viewing a large scale model of Jerusalem during the period of the Second Temple. It was really spectacular to get a visual of how the city looked during the time of Jesus.
|The large structure in the bottom center is the model of the Temple.|
|Homes closest to the Temple were considered prime real estate back then.|
It really is true what they say... location, location, location!
Now, about the Dead Sea Scrolls. They're a pretty big deal if you didn't know. Like, finding those scrolls was basically the equivalent to the invention of electricity, archaeologically speaking! The scrolls were written on parchment and papyrus and were found in caves in Qumran, where we toured yesterday. The entire original book of Isaiah is housed here; it's 22 feet long when unrolled! Wow! The only original book of the Hebrew Bible that has not been found so far is Esther. (They didn't allow photography inside the museum due to the extremely fragile nature of the scrolls, so I don't have photos to share.)
After touring the Shrine of the Book and a quick coffee break at the museum cafe, our bus driver Geora dropped us off at Yad Vashem, the Memorial to the Holocaust.
Now y'all... this is where telling the story gets very hard. I know what happened during the Holocaust. I know what I've read and what my history teacher told us about it in high school. I mean, who could possibly forget the movie "Schindler's List"? But... no history book or major motion picture could have ever prepared my heart for what I was about to see. As Ami briefly shared with us and gave us instructions before we entered the museum, I began to sob so hard that I struggled to contain the sounds coming from deep within my throat.
Yad Vashem. The name comes from the scripture in Isaiah 56:5... "To them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever."
Yad Vashem. Just the architecture of the building alone is striking. It is shaped like a sharp knife, because the murder of six million Jews was like the act of a knife slicing through the heart of Israel.
As we proceeded to walk across the bridge to the entrance, I wanted to cover my ears to keep from hearing the sound we had been told about. Under our feet as we took each and every step... our shoes touching the planks mimicked the same sounds of the trains that transported the Jews to the death camps. At that moment, I no longer cared that I couldn't control my sobs.
To tell you what I saw inside the museum that day is to understand that the Holocaust was the essence of horror. Six million Jews were led like lambs to be slaughtered. To see the methods and outright malicious measures the Germans used to dangle false hope in front of them before they were murdered... it made me physically sick to my stomach. Yet... even until the very end, a flicker of hope lived in their hearts. And as strange as it may sound... the Holocaust also brought life. Because on May 14, 1948... the independent State of Israel was born. The Jewish people officially received their Homeland.
Y'all... what I saw that day at Yad Vashem changed me. You can't walk through that museum and leave the same person you were when you first went in. It's impossible. And in all honesty, there are parts of me that I wish could forget the horror and the documentation of death that I saw that day, but... I needed to see it. I needed to see their faces and hear the names of the dead being spoken. Everyone needs to.
Here are a few photos Mr. Atchley took outside while we walked the grounds. (photography isn't allowed inside the museum)
|The Garden of the Righteous:|
This area commemorates more than 27,000 gentiles who were
instrumental in helping Jews survive during the war.
|The Pillar of Heroism.|
|A tribute to Dr. Janusz Korczak.|
. You can read more of his story here.
|A time of reflection while looking out over the Mount of Remembrance... |
I'm standing on the far right.
After a very quiet and reflective lunch, we headed down to the Old City of Jerusalem to tour the Upper Room and the tomb of King David.
|An exterior view of the building...|
While we were standing in the Upper Room, several different foreign groups from all over the world joined in with us to sing a word that's exactly the same in every language: "Hallelujah!" It was truly awesome and it gave me goosebumps!
Then, we made the short walk to view King David's tomb:
|The tomb of King David.|
|A statue of King David.|
Ami then informed us we were headed to the Western Wall next! This was the moment I had been waiting for! I couldn't wait to touch those ancient stones and I was beyond excited to deliver the many prayers that I carried from home for my sweet friends, family and blog readers!
On Day Eight, Part Two: We finally get our chance to pray at the Western Wall! Please, come back next week to read about the rest of our amazing first day in Jerusalem!